Riding The GAP in 2019

This bike ride came together in a hurry.  A group of us, friends from high school, had ridden the  Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and the C&O Canal together in 2016.   It was a 300 mile bike ride from Pittsburgh to the Washington, DC, area over six days.  Earlier this year, there was a documentary about this trail produced by a PBS station in Pittsburgh.  It was called  The Great Ride.  It was quite inspiring, and reminded us of the wonderful time we had had in 2016.  I said that I was prepared to do this ride with the same group once again.  Koushik immediately took me up on the the offer, and proposed that we ride this year, without waiting too long.  The others agreed almost immediately after that.

It took just a few weeks for the plans to come together.  We decided that we were going to do the ride at a more relaxed pace this time.  Instead of covering 300 miles, we would just do the 150 miles of the GAP.  We would spend a day exploring Pittsburgh, and 5 days doing the GAP itself.  This is how it came together.

Arrival in Pittsburgh for Bike Ride
Seeing Pittsburgh by Bicycle and Boat

Riding to Smithton, PA
On to Ohiopyle. PA
A “Rest” Day in Ohiopyle, and then on to Confluence, PA
In the Rain to Meyersdale, PA
Destination Cumberland, MD

This was a special ride. The more relaxed pace of this ride allowed us to enjoy each other’s company much more.  We were not rushed in any way.  And as we rode, I could feel a deeper and simpler level of connection emerge.  Another layer of my inhibitions in the company of friends slipped away.  This ride was especially good for the spirit.

Just as for the previous ride in 2016, not all details of the ride where completely figured out ahead of time.  We did know where we were staying – the towns and the establishments in those towns, but the particulars of the places we would stop at during the day, and what we were going to do at any particular place, or where we were going to get food and water during the day, were fluid.  We were flexible.  It worked out well.  We saw some great things, and ate some great food (there was the one clunker for me, but that’s all I am going to say about that!).  The boat tour of Pittsburgh turned out to be unexpectedly special.

All the establishments we stayed at along the way this time were different from those we stayed at in 2016.  We also stayed at more Bed and Breakfast establishments, and only one motel.  The owners of all of these places were great in their own ways.  They all made us comfortable, and also spent some time with us.  We got to know more about each other.  One of the owners was the mayor of the town!  All of these places had a character of their own.  The experience was not about staying the night at the most luxurious place available, but was about something deeper than that.  We were staying at places that represented the local town in some way, and we were getting to know some of these places better.  We lived in some of the really old buildings that had been renovated.  We met the locals and talked to them. We were getting a flavor of the real America.

One would think that rain would ruin a bike ride.  Not for me!  Even though the rain did change the nature of the experience on the one day that it poured, it brought out a different kind of joyousness.  I became a child once again, riding in the rain.  I could hear the sound of the rain through the trees, and on my poncho.  There was the dirt thrown up by the wet tires.  My glasses were getting wet and my shoes and socks soaked.  But, somehow, all of that did not matter that much as I was riding.  We just rode on through the rain to the next stopping point while others stopped for shelter.  We were able to dry out and warm up nicely finally, at the end of the ride.  The rain gear did help!

Something different this time was that towards the later half of the ride we encountered some people over and over again in different places along the trail.  And we met all of them again at the end of the ride.  We were all people on the same mission.  I do not remember anything like this from 2016.

The nature of the end of our ride in Cumberland was simply awesome.   It could have been anticlimactic – a slow ride to the end line in a plaza in Cumberland in the middle of a hot day.  But, no!  We had a cheering squad awaiting us.  Our families, and even classmate who was visiting from India.   The garlands and the awards were a bonus, but I would have been happy enough simply seeing their smiling faces at the finish line.  That was special, and unique to this particular bike ride.

A few days have passed since the end of the ride, and I have had time to ponder the richness of the experience of the week that we rode our bikes.  It is going to be a hard act to follow.

The Wedding Reception

We were very thankful for all the people who came even if the weather did not cooperate.  They survived a very warm and muggy evening.

The food was fresh and tasty, and those who participated in the dancing had a great time.  There were conversations going on all over the room.  The trivia session grabbed the attention of at least a small number of people in the crowd.  The bride and the groom made sure to meet as many of the guests as they could.  It was wonderful to see everybody even if one did not get to spend time with folks, lost as I was in the chaos of my mind.

 

Jesus was Here

It was the morning after the wedding.  Some of us were still on east coast time.  I woke up very early (but not early enough to see one of my siblings off to the airport, it seems).  Daylight was breaking and I could hear the sounds of the birds outside the window of our cabin at the Fern River Resort.  The rest of the folks seemed to be safely asleep in their cabins.  They were probably recovering from the festivities of the previous night.  It was a quiet time.

The resort lay among tall redwood trees,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAon a hillside overlooking a point where a little stream met the San Lorenzo river down below us.  (The name of the resort seems to be a misnomer.  Perhaps the little stream used to be called the Fern River, but I could not find any confirmation of this anywhere.) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun had not risen high enough to break through the hills, the tall redwoods, and the early morning clouds.  P5120158.jpgI decided to enjoy my moment of quiet down by the river side.

I crossed over the rocks and little sand dunes beside the river (probably a part of of the river bed itself when the waters were high) and arrived at a little open stretch of land beside the water itself.  It was quite narrow at this point, and the river was possibly crossable on foot if the water had not been flowing swiftly. P5120165.jpgUpstream, just behind an overhang of leaves, I noticed a family of mergansers. They had been floating downstream and had abruptly stopped in the water, having sighted me in the open space on the river bank.  They seemed to be considering their options to proceed downstream.  I had my camera in hand.

All of a sudden, they were moving downstream, effortlessly.  They had simply moved into a position to be caught by the swift current, to let it take them forward.  I pulled up my camera to take pictures, but I was unsuccessful because of the speed and the light.   They floated by, with mamma and papa duck leading the way, and the little one trailing behind, trying to keep pace.  The moment passed by quickly and I stayed by the riverside for a few more minutes to simply absorb the soothing sounds of its flow.   What a peaceful and glorious morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am so happy to have met some of young people who were present at the wedding.  We will certainly not forget the ones who went out of their way to quietly serve the people and help make the event happen. Remarkable human beings, and good examples for all of us to follow!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was this other time when we were talking about how we were planning to get to church in the nearby town of Felton for Sunday services, and they offered up their car keys without hesitation, and without even being asked.  Their minds had jumped one step ahead to how they could help us in any way. It is not as if we even knew them well.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Friend’s Birthday

Today is the birthday of an old friend.  We go back a long way, all the way back to elementary school.  My friend is a remarkable person – full of joy, sweet, smart, kind, curious, adventurous, and always helpful.  He is one terrific guy.   I went on a bike ride with him this summer in the Rockies in Canada.  Here are some pictures from the ride that capture his spirit, including his sometimes playful, dare I say, cheeky nature.

At the start of the ride.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the Goats and Glaciers viewpoint.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lovely couple.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo not know what happened here!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASupporting a fellow rider up a challenging slope.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe is his own man,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbut I am not sure what he is doing here.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey both have one foot in the Banff National Park and the other in the Jasper National Park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe explorer on Parker RidgeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAprobably looking at Saskatchewan Glacier (not in the picture) in the distance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe gives a friendly wave as we head out to our stop for the evening at The Crossing Resort.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe was the first to venture into the glacier fed waters of Waterfowl lake.  It was cold!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere he is returning from an exploration in the vicinity of Bow Summit.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe friendly wave.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Happy birthday and happy trails, my friend!

 

Jasper to Banff Bike Ride, The Second Posting For The Last Day – The Pictures

Perhaps you will sense a different feeling to this post when compared to the earlier ones from the ride.  Of course, one of the reasons this post is different is because of what I did to myself at the end of the day.  The other reason is more sentimental.  I want to acknowledge my travel companions. The focus is not just on the scenery but on the people who accompanied me.  I am going to break my own unspoken rule and specifically mention names.  I am hoping that nobody minds.  We start in the morning as we get ready to depart Lake Louise.

Being his usual helpful self, Rick had packed our luggage into the back of Ben’s van for the last day’s ride. He was quite proud of his effort.   Rick also did his bit to keep us entertained as we rode every day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is Ben giving us instructions for the last day.   Ben was very thorough in his support.  Go ahead and take a tour with him at Mountain Madness Tours.  You will not be disappointed!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had been riding thus far on the Icefields Parkway.  From now on we are on the Bow Valley Parkway.  The funny thing is that my bear sighting was pretty soon after we saw this sign. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe road ran beside the Bow River.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is a picture of the riders on the move.  You may notice that the road markings here are very different from those encountered on the Icefields Parkway.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA freight train awaits beside the road.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKoushik, the heart and soul of our riding team.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne way to smell the flowers, perhaps on another planet (get it!?).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANancy and Stacy, old college mates.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABen in his vehicle, after overtaking one of the riders.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI stopped with KP at a memorial point for the Castle Camp internment camp.  Even though this episode happened during WW1, it is not difficult to imagine something like this happening even  in our modern times.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last paragraph in the wayside marker for the internment camp below reads “In total, eight thousand five hundred and seventy-nine men became prisoners of war in twenty-four camps located across Canada during the internment operations of 1914-1920.  Most were foreign nationals, a few were British subjects or Canadian citizens.  The majority were non-combatant, unemployed civilians – victims of the 1913 depression, racial prejudice and wartime hysteria. Many of the internees came from western regions of Ukraine, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStacy, Nancy and Sally.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Bow river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABen’s van and trailer at the last stopping point.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAResting before the last push.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASally and Bob, our riding leaders.  They were the youngest and the oldest in the group. Bob, a former triathlete, took on the hills we encountered as if he was on a mission. Sally was not too far behind.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA squirrel observing the goings-on at this last stop.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was the last picture I found on the camera after the trip.  I did not take this picture.  The time stamp on the picture leads me to believe that it was taken after I fell off the bike.  I suspect that Bob, who had retrieved the camera and eventually delivered it to my home, took a picture to see if the camera was working. A great picture from that perspective.  The camera ended up in better shape than I did!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA That was the end of the ride, but not the end of my adventures.

If you want to continue to read about how I got home from Canada, start with this posting.